Jenise Miller


Jenise Miller is the daughter of Panamanian immigrants and great-granddaughter of workers who built the Panama Canal. She is inspired to write poetry about growing up in Watts and Compton and in the small community of Black Panamanians in Los Angeles. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Black Studies and an M.A. in Urban Planning and has participated in the South Central Los Angeles-based DSTL Arts community writing workshops. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Compton. 

The machete

When I was a child I found a machete

wrapped in a towel

in the back of my mother’s closet.

Gray nails pierced

through the black and rough handle,

its blade glistened, silver and smooth.


My mother said she used it to chop young

coconut and sugar cane back home,

peeled rippled skin from hard flesh,

gnawed it with sharp blades of

teeth, draining limited sweetness.

She loved sugar like sharp objects

I found all over the apartment—


Machete in the closet

scissors under my mattress

Ruben Blades in the tape deck

knives by the stove

she used to cut open silver

cans of guandú and slice

platano once sweet and bruised.


When my father left her

a loose mouth for a sharp tongue

she swallowed knives

in the heart, she became them,

words cut harsh and deep,

peeled away love like bark,  

drained its limited sweetness.


I don’t know what happened

to the machete or my mother I found

wrapped in a towel

in the back of her closet

gray nails piercing

from her black and rough hands,

her mouth glistening, silver and smooth.

© The Acentos Review 2018